Archive for the ‘Trade’ Category
The role of government intervention in the economy is perhaps the starkest difference between the candidates
Oct 6th 2012 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] THIS year’s election carries big implications for economic policy well beyond the budget and taxes. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have very different ideas about regulation, monetary policy, international trade and labour markets, although their rhetoric sometimes exaggerates the distance between their positions.
In his first term Mr Obama presided over a big increase in the number of major newregulations (as measured by their economic impact), from air-cargo screening to fuel efficiency in trucks. On top of those come thousands of pages of new rules implementing his financial-regulation and health-care reforms (see article). The White House claims that the benefits of the new regulations easily exceed the costs, although some economists contest the way the benefits are measured.
In two articles, we examine how China has been altered by its entry into the WTO ten years ago. First, the economy.
[By Greg Ip and The Economist’s Asia Economics Editor] THE World Trade Organisation (WTO), like many clubs, denies patrons the right of automatic readmission. Having quit the organisation’s predecessor shortly after the Communist revolution of 1949, China had to wait 15 long years to gain entry after reapplying in the 1980s. The doors finally opened on December 11th 2001, ten years ago this week.
The price of re-entry was as steep as the wait was long. China had to relax over 7,000 tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers. Some feared that foreign competition would uproot farmers and upend rusty state-owned enterprises (SOEs), as to some extent it did. But China, overall, has enjoyed one of the best decades in global economic history. Its dollar GDP has quadrupled, its exports almost quintupled.
America’s latest anti-China bill tackles a problem already being solved
Oct 15th 2011 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] THE global economy is sicker than a man with a bellyful of bad oysters. The last thing it needs now is a trade war. Yet on October 11th America’s Senate passed the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act, which would allow any “fundamentally misaligned” currency to be labelled a subsidy subject to countervailing duties. No prizes for guessing which large Asian nation the senators have in mind.
Variants of this bill have been introduced regularly since 2003; all have failed. But this time may be different: anti-China sentiment in both parties has grown. Republican leaders have so far resisted holding a vote on a similar bill in the House of Representatives and look unlikely to change their minds; but if they do, the bill would almost certainly pass.
America has legitimate beefs with China, but this bill is the wrong way to address them. Read the rest of this entry »
As trade deals head towards approval, a backlash grows against China
Oct 8th 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
Against all the odds, American factories are coming back to life. Thank the rest of the world for that
CHICAGO AND WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] ACME INDUSTRIES is a small contract manufacturer with only ten big customers. But those customers are a cross-section of the industrial economy, spanning mining, oil, transport and construction. Right now, Acme’s order book is bulging. “Everyone is up across the board,” says Bob Clifford, the company’s head of sales and marketing.
In one corner of its factory just outside Chicago, three workers polish what looks like a steel Lego brick the size of a steamer trunk. This is designed to channel water underground at high pressure, and will go into natural-gas-drilling equipment. In another corner sit rows of hollow steel cylinders that will hold bearings inside the wheels of gigantic mining trucks being built in nearby Peoria. Mr Clifford points to several parts destined for diesel locomotives built by a subsidiary of Caterpillar a big maker of heavy equipment. Caterpillar is booming, and its ecosystem of suppliers across Illinois is “seeing a real trickle-down effect,” he says.
At the nadir of the recession Acme’s sales had fallen 20% and it had laid off ten of its 125 employees. Sales are back up, the head count is now up to 130, and Acme reckons it will hire 20 more people this year to handle the growing order book.
For the first time in many years, American manufacturing is doing better than the rest of the economy. Manufacturing output tumbled 15% over the course of the recession, from December 2007 to the end of June 2009. Since then it has recovered two-thirds of that drop; production is now just 5% below its peak level (see chart 1).
The entire article is linked here.
Nov 11th 2010, 22:48 by G.I. | WASHINGTON, DC
[Greg Ip] BEHIND today’s hand-wringing over currency wars is the fear that it’s one small step from currency intervention and capital controls to traditional, noxious protectionism: tariffs, quotas, subsidies, etc. For example, Gerald O’Driscoll at the Cato Institute writes:
The Fed’s announced purchase is an exercise in monetary protectionism. It has already produced countermeasures in terms of capital controls by Brazil and perhaps others. It may lead to trade protectionist countermeasures. Monetary protectionism breeds trade protectionism and risks a global meltdown in trade as occurred in the 1930s, which paved the way for World War II.
And Alan Greenspan obliquely makes the same point today in the Financial Times.
But is it true? Does monetary protectionism breed traditional protectionism? I could argue the opposite. If monetary protectionism softens the pain felt by the trade sector, it weakens demands for the traditional variety. When America succeeded in devaluing the dollar against the yuan in 2005, it stopped the momentum of anti-China trade bills in Congress.
The original blog post is linked here.
A special report on America’s economy
Time to rebalance America’s economy is set to shift away from consumption and debt and towards exports and saving. It will be its biggest transformation in decades, says Greg Ip
Note: This is a nine-part, 14 page report. You can read the entire thing at this blog post or on The Economist’s web site here.
Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition
STEVE HILTON remembers months of despair after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Customers rushed to the sales offices of Meritage Homes, the property firm Mr Hilton runs, not to buy houses but to cancel contracts they had already signed. “I thought for a moment the world was coming to an end,” he recalls.
In the following months Mr Hilton stepped up efforts to save his company. He gave up options to buy thousands of lots that the firm had snapped up across Arizona, Florida, Nevada and California during the boom, taking massive losses. He eventually laid off three-quarters of its 2,300 employees. He also had its houses completely redesigned to cut construction cost almost in half: simpler roofs, standardised window sizes, fewer options. Gone were the 12-foot ceilings, sweeping staircases and granite countertops everyone wanted when money was free. Meritage is now catering to the only customers able to get credit: first-time buyers with federally guaranteed loans. It is clawing its way back to health as a leaner, humbler company.
The same could be said for America. Virtually every industry has shed jobs in the past two years, but those that cater mostly to consumers have suffered most. Employment in residential construction and carmaking is down by almost a third, in retailing and banking by 8%. As the economy recovers, some of those jobs will come back, but many of them will not, because this was no ordinary recession. The bubbly asset prices, ever easier credit and cheap oil that fuelled America’s age of consumerism are not about to return.
Instead, America’s economy will undergo one of its biggest transformations in decades. This macroeconomic shift from debt and consumption to saving and exports will bring microeconomic changes too: different lifestyles, and different jobs in different places. This special report will describe that transformation, and explain why it will be tricky. Read the rest of this entry »